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With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement about the training of teachers.
The Government have decided to extend from two to three years the course of training which leads to the status of qualified teacher. This change will be made in 1960 and will apply to all students who enter the general teacher training colleges in or after September of that year. The necessary changes in the regulations will be made later.
My noble Friend has just made a similar statement in another place.
We welcome this statement, which somewhat belatedly brings England and Wales into line with Scotland. We welcome it because we feel that it is of the utmost importance that children, primary school children especially, should be taught by men and women who are adequately trained. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me whether there are any special reasons, now that the decision has been made, why we should wait until 1960? Will it not be possible to begin in 1959? Has consideration been given to what use will be made of the extra year?
As the hon. Lady rightly said, this change will bring the position in England and Wales into line with that in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The choice of 1960 for the introduction of the longer course takes account of the prospect of a sharp decrease in the number of children at school after 1961. The choice of 1960, will, therefore, mean that we will not have to halt the process of reducing the size of classes. The National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers will shortly publish a report designed to stimulate discussion about the scope and content of the longer course, and my noble Friend hopes to issue a short pamphlet embodying some suggestions put forward by Her Majesty's inspectors.
It will not be accompanied by any significant expansion of the training colleges. The output of trained teachers will, therefore, be reduced by about one-third, but my noble Friend is satisfied that the resulting numbers are likely to match demand for teachers in the 1960s, so far as this can be foreseen now. I made a very full statement on this subject in a debate on 5th April.
In South Wales particularly there are scores of young people educationally qualified to take up training for the teaching profession, but who cannot get into any training college in the country. Will the hon. Gentleman look into that matter? On that subject I speak not only for my own constituency but for every adjoining constituency. It is hopeless for many of these youngsters, who have done extremely well in their secondary grammar schools, to try to get into a training college. What can the Parliamentary Secretary say on that aspect of the matter?
Of course, I will gladly consider any evidence which the hon. Gentleman likes to bring before me, but, as I explained in the debate on 5th April, we have had to look at the demand for teachers in the 1960s, when the problem of the bulge will have been largely overcome. It would, perhaps, be opportune to remind ourselves how much we owe to the teachers who have borne the burden and heat of the day in the 1950s.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain how, if there is to be no comparable progress in the provision of places in the training colleges and no immediate change in the building programme for training colleges, classes will not become smaller?
May I make it clear again that there is no question of going back on our policy of reducing the size of classes in primary schools? That remains our policy and, of course, I do not rule out adjustments in the light of further evidence. I was concerned only to point out that the introduction of the longer course in 1960 will not, of itself, be accompanied by a significant expansion of the colleges.
While welcoming this step forward, and congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary on a great educational advance, will he again reconsider the second part of his statement today? Does he not realise that he is in danger of taking away at least half of the benefit of increasing the period of training for teachers if he cuts down by one-third the annual output of teachers from the training colleges?
Of course, my noble Friend and I will take account of what has been said. I was concerned to point out, first, that there will be no going back on the policy of reducing class sizes and, secondly, that we believe that the resulting numbers, even after the introduction of the three-year course, are very likely to match the demand for teachers in the 1960s, so far as we can foresee that at the present time.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in this matter, he has consulted the local education authorities or their representatives and whether, in particular, in hard-pressed industrial areas such as Birmingham, where there is also very great difficulty, he has assessed the mathematical proportion of teachers to pupils when this scheme comes into effect? Can he assure us that the position in such areas will not be worse?
It is difficult to make precise detailed forecasts for any particular area. My noble Friend explained at a conference at Easter that this reform was in his mind; there certainly have been very full discussions.